Sunday 17 December 2017

Abortion concerns did not sway switch to FF, says Labour councillor

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

A LABOUR councillor who defected to Fianna Fail has denied she left over the abortion legislation.

Meath County Council member Jenny McHugh, who ran for Labour in the general election, was unveiled as a new member by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Ms McHugh's arrival opens the possibility of her running as a Fianna Fail candidate in the next general election in Meath West.

Mr Martin informed his local councillors yesterday morning about her arrival into the party. Her brother-in-law is a Fianna Fail town councillor.

Ms McHugh expressed concerns in the county recently about the abortion legislation and particularly the suicide clause.

But the councillor denied that her concern about the legislation was the reason she had left the Labour party.

"It wasn't my reason. Oh God, no," she said.

However, she said she believed it could have been teased out a bit more.

"I'm a mother of seven children. I'm pro-life, I'm pro-life of the mother. I'm not against this legislation per se, but I think it could have been teased out a bit more. Maybe a little bit more health plans put in for women. This is about women, it's not about politics," she said.

Ms McHugh cited Government cutbacks in education over the last two years as the main reason for her departure.

"I read the Fianna Fail manifesto for education and every bit of it I agree with. That part of it was an easy decision for me," she said.

However, just over a year ago, she said she was thrilled with the news that planning permission had been given for a new purpose-built 1,000-pupil national school – which will replace the St Stephen's national school in Johnstown where she works as principal.

"At last, we will be able to teach children in proper facilities and proper-sized classrooms," she told the 'Meath Chronicle' newspaper.

Ms McHugh denied that she had done a deal with Fianna Fail to be chosen as its candidate in the Meath West constituency in the next general election.

She failed to win a seat for Labour in 2011, despite being perfectly placed geographically and the party putting a huge effort into her campaign. Ms McHugh also said the hammering Labour got in the neighbouring Meath East by-election did not influence her decision to quit.

When asked if she had been in touch with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore before deciding to leave, she said she had discussed her concerns at local level and had written letters about education cuts which were passed on to Labour headquarters.

A Fianna Fail insider said that Ms McHugh was the first Labour councillor in recent memory to join the party.

Mr Martin said Ms McHugh had contacted Fianna Fail headquarters about joining.

"People of Jenny McHugh's calibre joining the party is a fillip to the party and gives encouragement to us to continue our journey of renewal. We have a significant way to go yet," he said.

Irish Independent

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